Third Circuit upholds New Jersey sports betting decision

Sep 17, 2013 |
By: Jon Campbell
Sorry folks, no betting on sports in New Jersey this football season.
Sorry folks, no betting on sports in New Jersey this football season.

The Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit has made a decision in the New Jersey sports betting case and, as expected, it upheld the original court's decision to not allow wagering on sports in the state.

Soriano is a gaming and litigation attorney in New Jersey who has been following this case closely. The decision was 128 pages long and he summarized it quickly here.

Some positive news for sports bettors is it was decided 2-1 among the three judges with partial dissent.

Griffan Finan, a gaming attorney at Ifrah Law in Washington, D.C., says New Jersey has 90 days to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court if that's the route the state decides to go. If it decides to go the en banc route, it will have 45 days.

Because the ruling in favor of the leagues was upheld, this case likely won't take on a heightened importance for the Supreme Court. Experts have told me in past discussions this means we could be looking at as much as a year or two for this whole process to play out. Also, this schedule for the Supreme Court shows hearings are booked up until April 2014.

There is reason to remain optimistic, though, starting with recent history of Supreme Court decisions.

And there's also the dissent factor. Judge Thomas Vanaskie found the leagues had standing in this case but that it also "violates the principles of federalism."

Here's a quick breakdown of the positive and negative of the ruling for New Jersey and sports bettors (using Soriano's summary as a guide):

THE GOOD

-Court acknowledged New Jersey's strong arguments against PASPA as a matter of policy
-2-1 decision, so there was dissent
-Last term the Supreme Court reversed or vacated 5 of the 6 appeals from the Third Circuit
-Court said Congress has the authority to regulate sports betting based on Commerce Clause, dismissing the leagues' argument to the contrary
-Judge Vanaskie wrote in his dissent that PASPA "violates the principles of federalism"
-"Vanaskie concludes that because PASPA dictates the manner in which states must regulate interstate commerce, it violates anti-commandeering and is unconstitutional."
-Vanaskie also said it "would be natural for new Jersey citizens to believe that state law governs sports gambling as well (as lotteries)...When New Jersey fails to authorize or license sports gambling, its citizens will undeniably blame state officials even though state regulation of gambling has become a puppet of the federal government, whose strings are in reality pulled (or cut) by PASPA."
- Sen. Ray Lesniak in a statement: New Jersey will "continue to fight this injustice by either appealing to the US Supreme Court or to the entire Court of Appeals." -Good news for Nevada bettors: The court found the purpose of PASPA was to curb an increase in sports betting, so getting rid of it where it already existed at the time of PASPA's founding wouldn't make sense.

THE NOT-SO GOOD

-Role of court is not to judge wisdom of PASPA, just constitutionality
-Despite dissent, ruling still in favor of leagues
-Court upheld ruling the leagues do have standing to sue state to halt sports betting
-Court ruled the leagues have suffered "an injury in fact" because the leagues' reputation may be harmed by the "unwanted association" with sports betting
-Court shot down New Jersey's argument against anti-commandeering ie. "PASPA doesn't tell the states what to do; it bars them from doing something they want to do."
-Hope surrounding decision in Shelby County Voting Rights case was quashed somewhat. Court said voting rights and gambling are two totally separate issues and the equal sovereignty argument does not apply.

To read the decision in its entirety, click here.

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